By Kathy Rowe

At this time every year, the Second Highland Creek Scouts do a door-to-door collection in Centennial of non-perishable foods. This year it is scheduled for December 1. The items the Scouts receive from you are then donated to the food bank at the Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities. Have you ever wondered where that food bank is and who uses it? This story takes look at the SCHC.

“At SCHC our philosophy is holistic,” states Debra McGonegal, Fund and Volunteer Development Manager at the Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities.

“We look at the physical health, mental health, emotional health, social health. All of these things are important to an individual. That’s why we have so many programs. The food bank is a way to connect people to all of the other services that we provide.”

Approximately 1,800 households accessed the SCHC Food Bank last year. Residents from all over Scarborough can benefit from their resources, however, in the case of the food bank, the majority of residents tend to live in the KGO – Kingston Galloway Orton Park neighbourhoods. The food bank operates out of  a Toronto community housing building at  4100 Lawrence Ave. E. Although it is well used (39,000 visits last year), Debra does not see another food bank opening anytime soon.

“Surprisingly, there were 1,470 children who used our food bank last year. Running a food bank is huge. It’s one of those labours of love,” she said. “It is heavily dependent on volunteers. The volunteers speak many languages as well as English. The idea is that families in need can visit the food bank once per week. In reality, most people don’t want to have to go to the food bank. In  the colder months, many people have to choose between heat or food.”

Debra went on to explain that the majority of food donations come via the Daily Bread Food Bank  and  Second Harvest. In addition, help from organizations such as Scouts, churches, businesses, schools and fire halls bring in thousands of pounds of food each year that is collected from generous citizens for the SCHC food bank.

“Our food bank runs many food programs throughout the year. There are a total of three hot meals and two snack/coffee dishes served out of 4100 Lawrence Ave. E. each week. This is year round. There are also specialty programs such as Wishes for the Holidays, which just kicked off for this holiday season.”

During this time the food bank hopes to receive canned fish, canned meat, peanut butter, cereal, pancake mix, syrup, holiday treats, coffee/tea, canned vegetables and canned fruit. For more than 20 years, the Wishes for the Holidays program has supported more than 23,400 households in the Scarborough area by providing them with special holiday packages. All families who apply for assistance through the SCHC’s Wishes for the Holidays are enrolled in one of the programs in the Scarborough area and are living at or below the poverty level. The packages include food, personal hygiene items, and gifts for children. Sponsors are matched with a family or families, a single or elderly couple or someone ill and/disabled in need of extra support. A sponsor then creates an age-appropriate hamper of goods and gifts for the recipient(s).

“The people who do this really love it because they get to deliver right to the family if they wish to,” Debra said. “We have one sponsor who started as a young adult sponsoring one family. Then she decided to get a group together who fundraise year-round. Now they hope to sponsor 40 families this year.”

Those families who either miss the registration or  choose not to participate as recipients of the Wishes for the Holidays are helped by the CHUM Christmas Wish program. There are always local businesses, schools or groups who establish toy drives this time of year and many families benefit from their collective generosity.

For more information about supporting a family through SCHC this holiday season, please email Christine Hewitt, Manager of Community Engagement. or call 416-847-4141.